All 50 states have laws on the book that define and punish driving under the influence. While traditional means of deterrence and punishment like jail time, court fines, and license suspension remain the most commonly utilized, more states are also including the use of ignition interlocks on repeat offenders’ vehicles. Find out what an ignition interlock device is and when the court might order that a Draeger interlock, a Lifesafer interlock, or other similar gadget can be legally installed in your car.
What is an Ignition Interlock?
Ignition interlocks are essentially a type of car breathalyzer that detects the presence of alcohol on the intended driver’s breath. Before the car can be started, the driver must breathe into the device, which then tests the breath’s vapor for the presence of alcohol.
If it senses that the person has been drinking or is drunk, it will not allow the car to be started. The driver must then wait a determined wait time before trying to start the car again. The length of the wait is designed to allow an inebriated person to sober up before trying to start the vehicle.
As its name implies, the breathalyzer is installed in the car ignition. This placement is strategic in preventing drunk individuals from being able to start and drive a car. These devices can be designed to report the breathalyzer results to the judge or court monitor assigned to the defendant’s case.
Many courts mandate that defendants allow the ignition interlocks to be routinely inspected. People whose cars are outfitted with them are also responsible for paying the associated ignition interlock cost totals:
- insurance of the device
All 50 states allow the use of interlocks for some DUI offenders’ vehicles. The use of these gadgets may be left up to the court and judge. Other states mandate that they be used after an offender meets certain criteria outlined by state law.
Who Must Use Interlocks?
What is the likelihood that your car will be equipped with a Guardian interlock if you are convicted of a DUI? How do states determine who must use one of these devices and who must submit to other punishments like jail time or monetary fines?
In most states, the use of these ignition breath tests is reserved for repeat DUI offenders. People who have been convicted numerous times of driving under the influence often have no choice but to allow the court to put one of these breathalyzers in their cars’ ignitions.
If they refuse, they might have to serve out a lengthy prison sentence. As such, many DUI offenders prefer to have a breath test put in their cars so that they can stay out of jail.
However, some states require its use if an offender has not responded to other means of punishment like civil fines, jail time, or license suspension. Likewise, if the offender had a minor in the vehicle at the time of the DUI, he or she may automatically have a breathalyzer put on the vehicle.
Even first-time offenders can find themselves with one of these devices put on their cars. However, this sentence is generally reserved for first-time DUI offenders who had very high blood alcohol content levels at the time of their crimes.
For that matter, blood alcohol content, or BAC, determines in some states whether or not you will get one of these gadgets attached to your car’s ignition. It is mandatory in most states with DUIs with a 0.08 or greater BAC.
A few states mandate it with a 0.15 BAC or higher. These states include:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The states of:
require its use after a second DUI conviction. California, North Dakota, and South Dakota allow the discretionary use of these devices for any DUI offender.
Why are Interlocks Used?
Why do some judges require DUI offenders to use these interlocks on their cars rather than pay huge monetary fines or go to jail? While many repeat drunk drivers may find these devices to be annoying, embarrassing, and inconvenient, they actually save people’s lives and teach drivers restraint and positive behavior.
They are most often used for people who have not learned from their previous drunk driving mistakes and went on to offend again. No amount of jail time, civil fines, or license suspension could teach some people not to drink and drive again.
To get through to them and to give them a chance to reform their behavior, judges can sentence these individuals to driving only with the use of one of these breathalyzers attached to their ignitions. After so many times of trying to start the car despite alcohol being on their breath, these people may learn to resist drinking if they want to be able to start and drive their cars.
Further, this form of DUI punishment can be used on offenders of all ages. Teenagers convicted of DUI may not benefit from going to prison. They also may not have the money to pay expensive court fines. In a bid to teach them better behavior while allowing them to continue going to work or school, the court may require that these teens’ cars have the breath tests installed in them for several months or longer.
In fact, many judges reserve jail time for the worst DUI convicts like those who have been found guilty of vehicular assault, manslaughter, or homicide. If they killed or seriously injured someone while driving under the influence, these individuals may find themselves sentenced to years in prison. Justice would not be served by outfitting their cars with a breathalyzer test.
As such, these gadgets are often reserved for people who have not hurt anyone else or damaged anyone’s property during their crimes. These individuals stand the best chance of paying their debt to society and reforming their behavior by having to breathe into an alcohol detector before they can start and drive their cars.
How a DUI Attorney Can Help
Many would argue that having a breathalyzer test installed in your cars ignition is light compared to other common DUI punishments. After all, you could be sitting in a jail cell or paying off a huge court fine.
Still, if the judge assigned to your case has sentenced you to using one of these interlocks on your car, you want to be sure that the punishment is warranted and that you do not have to tolerate it longer than you legally should.
A DUI lawyer can review the details of your case to ensure that both your rights and privacy are protected. An attorney can also guarantee that the state’s laws regarding the use of these devices are being followed and that the court is keeping track of how long yours has been utilized in your vehicle. When you reach the last day of using it, your lawyer can ensure that it is removed immediately by the court.
Driving under the influence is a crime in all 50 states. If you are a repeat offender yet did not hurt anyone while driving drunk, you may benefit from having a breath test attached to your car’s ignition.
This interlocking device can help you pay back your debt to society and give you the chance to stay out of jail. You can protect your rights and advocate for your future by learning how, when, and for whom these devices are most commonly used.